Noise Sensitivity and Age

From: Ron Pellegrino
Subject: Re: new study
Date: 7/4/98

>=== Quiet-List message from ===
>The New York Daily News reports today that British researchers, who have been
>studying what sorts of noises bother people the most, found that the older the
>subjects were, the more annoyed they were with the lower-frequency sounds.
>Those under 40 had more of a problem with higher frequency sounds.

>Anybody "across the pond" have any info on that?

>Tom B.

Those British researchers could have saved some time and resources if they had consulted the basic literature on psychoacoustics and physiology. For a variety of well-documented natural and environmental reasons, human high frequency response rolls off with increasing age. Given exactly the same excessive audio stimuli, most "normal" young people will hear (with their ears) high frequencies that "normal" older people cannot hear (with their ears). Also, low frequencies, especially sub-audio, are heard in the body to a far greater degree than high frequencies. Younger folks, more than older ones, tend to enjoy the excitement and hormone flow from having their innards massaged and scrambled. If you happen to be youthful and in the mood, body music makes you want dance, jump up and down and around; if not, it comes off as being loud and obnoxious. Boils down to one of many generational and subcultural conflicts.

Ron Pellegrino

The exchange that follows is a continuation of the discussion.

State of Knowledge on the Effects of Sound

From: Ron Pellegrino
Subject: Re: new study - REPLY
Date: 7/6/98

>=== Quiet-List message from Ray Hattingh ===
>Ron Pellegrino responded...

>>>>Those British researchers could have saved some time and
>resources if they had consulted the basic literature on psychoaccoustics
>and physiology. For a variety of well-documented natural and
>environmental reasons, human high frequency response ...................
>etc., etc. <<<<

>Quotations such as this indicate that there is an overwhelming body of
>knowledge which "proves" the good and bad effects of sound. The
>numerous institutes, world wide, that use sound for healing are a part of
>this body of knowledge. Perhaps what is needed is not further studies
>(they have all been done??) but the establishment and funding of a
>body/group/whatever, to formalise all this knowledge in one central point,
>say the WHO, from where it can be used as ammunition in fighting noise

>Ray Hattingh
>+27 21 400-3570

The history of the body of knowledge on the effects of sound on the human organism stretches back thousands of years. What´s different today is that we have technological tools that can quantify those effects in ways that create political tools for better or worse. I cringe every time I see someone raise the decibel flag (one of a number of technological/political tools) again as if all humans at all stages have the same response to sound, as if audio spectrum and iteration are not important noise factors, as if weighted scales were divine gifts, and as if time and place were noise nonfactors.

Governments and other political institutions should be encouraging and pressuring educational establishments to include and emphasize the fundamental importance of human senses for simple survival as well as improved quality of life. Even the college educated population can barely carry on a conversation about sound and noise issues above the level of irritation and preference; they´ve never dealt with the subject on a level that would leave them with conceptual and language tools because educational establishments have been too concerned with making them good consumers and industrial cogs.

It´s an uphill slog so it´ll be a long time before all the sound and noise studies have been done. However, collecting and organizing what´s already known and disseminating it to whomever requests it would be a great gift to humanity. Isn´t that why governments and philanthropies exist? Meanwhile those of us in the trenches continue to do what we can about raising the sound and noise consciousness levels of the media, government, and educational institutions knowing full well that eventually these issues will be mainstream and the process of solving the noise problems can begin in earnest.

Ron Pellegrino

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